How AI can save our humanity | Kai-Fu Lee


I’m going to talk about
how AI and mankind can coexist, but first, we have to rethink
about our human values. So let me first make a confession
about my errors in my values. It was 11 o’clock, December 16, 1991. I was about to become a father
for the first time. My wife, Shen-Ling,
lay in the hospital bed going through a very difficult
12-hour labor. I sat by her bedside but looked anxiously at my watch, and I knew something that she didn’t. I knew that if in one hour, our child didn’t come, I was going to leave her there and go back to work and make a presentation about AI to my boss, Apple’s CEO. Fortunately, my daughter
was born at 11:30 — (Laughter) (Applause) sparing me from doing the unthinkable, and to this day, I am so sorry for letting my work ethic
take precedence over love for my family. (Applause) My AI talk, however, went off brilliantly. (Laughter) Apple loved my work
and decided to announce it at TED1992, 26 years ago on this very stage. I thought I had made one of the biggest,
most important discoveries in AI, and so did the “Wall Street Journal”
on the following day. But as far as discoveries went, it turned out, I didn’t discover India, or America. Perhaps I discovered
a little island off of Portugal. But the AI era of discovery continued, and more scientists
poured their souls into it. About 10 years ago, the grand AI discovery was made by three
North American scientists, and it’s known as deep learning. Deep learning is a technology
that can take a huge amount of data within one single domain and learn to predict or decide
at superhuman accuracy. For example, if we show
the deep learning network a massive number of food photos, it can recognize food such as hot dog or no hot dog. (Applause) Or if we show it many pictures
and videos and sensor data from driving on the highway, it can actually drive a car
as well as a human being on the highway. And what if we showed
this deep learning network all the speeches made by President Trump? Then this artificially
intelligent President Trump, actually the network — (Laughter) can — (Applause) You like double oxymorons, huh? (Laughter) (Applause) So this network, if given the request
to make a speech about AI, he, or it, might say — (Recording) Donald Trump:
It’s a great thing to build a better world
with artificial intelligence. Kai-Fu Lee: And maybe in another language? DT: (Speaking Chinese) (Laughter) KFL: You didn’t know
he knew Chinese, did you? So deep learning has become the core
in the era of AI discovery, and that’s led by the US. But we’re now in the era
of implementation, where what really matters is execution,
product quality, speed and data. And that’s where China comes in. Chinese entrepreneurs, who I fund as a venture capitalist, are incredible workers, amazing work ethic. My example in the delivery room is nothing
compared to how hard people work in China. As an example, one startup
tried to claim work-life balance: “Come work for us because we are 996.” And what does that mean? It means the work hours
of 9am to 9pm, six days a week. That’s contrasted
with other startups that do 997. And the Chinese product quality
has consistently gone up in the past decade, and that’s because of
a fiercely competitive environment. In Silicon Valley, entrepreneurs
compete in a very gentlemanly fashion, sort of like in old wars
in which each side took turns to fire at each other. (Laughter) But in the Chinese environment, it’s truly a gladiatorial
fight to the death. In such a brutal environment,
entrepreneurs learn to grow very rapidly, they learn to make their products
better at lightning speed, and they learn
to hone their business models until they’re impregnable. As a result, great Chinese products
like WeChat and Weibo are arguably better than the equivalent American products
from Facebook and Twitter. And the Chinese market
embraces this change and accelerated change
and paradigm shifts. As an example, if any of you go to China, you will see it’s almost cashless
and credit card-less, because that thing that we all
talk about, mobile payment, has become the reality in China. In the last year, 18.8 trillion US dollars
were transacted on mobile internet, and that’s because
of very robust technologies built behind it. It’s even bigger than the China GDP. And this technology, you can say,
how can it be bigger than the GDP? Because it includes all transactions: wholesale, channels,
retail, online, offline, going into a shopping mall
or going into a farmers market like this. The technology is used
by 700 million people to pay each other, not just merchants, so it’s peer to peer, and it’s almost transaction-fee-free. And it’s instantaneous, and it’s used everywhere. And finally, the China market is enormous. This market is large, which helps give entrepreneurs
more users, more revenue, more investment, but most importantly, it gives the entrepreneurs a chance
to collect a huge amount of data which becomes rocket fuel
for the AI engine. So as a result, the Chinese AI companies have leaped ahead so that today, the most valuable companies in computer vision, speech recognition, speech synthesis,
machine translation and drones are all Chinese companies. So with the US leading
the era of discovery and China leading
the era of implementation, we are now in an amazing age where the dual engine
of the two superpowers are working together to drive the fastest
revolution in technology that we have ever seen as humans. And this will bring tremendous wealth, unprecedented wealth: 16 trillion dollars, according to PwC, in terms of added GDP
to the worldwide GDP by 2030. It will also bring immense challenges in terms of potential job replacements. Whereas in the Industrial Age it created more jobs because craftsman jobs were being
decomposed into jobs in the assembly line, so more jobs were created. But AI completely replaces
the individual jobs in the assembly line with robots. And it’s not just in factories, but truckers, drivers and even jobs like telesales,
customer service and hematologists as well as radiologists over the next 15 years are going to be gradually replaced by artificial intelligence. And only the creative jobs — (Laughter) I have to make myself safe, right? Really, the creative jobs
are the ones that are protected, because AI can optimize but not create. But what’s more serious
than the loss of jobs is the loss of meaning, because the work ethic
in the Industrial Age has brainwashed us into thinking
that work is the reason we exist, that work defined
the meaning of our lives. And I was a prime and willing victim
to that type of workaholic thinking. I worked incredibly hard. That’s why I almost left
my wife in the delivery room, that’s why I worked 996
alongside my entrepreneurs. And that obsession that I had with work ended abruptly a few years ago when I was diagnosed
with fourth stage lymphoma. The PET scan here shows
over 20 malignant tumors jumping out like fireballs, melting away my ambition. But more importantly, it helped me reexamine my life. Knowing that I may only have
a few months to live caused me to see how foolish it was for me to base my entire self-worth on how hard I worked
and the accomplishments from hard work. My priorities were
completely out of order. I neglected my family. My father had passed away, and I never had a chance
to tell him I loved him. My mother had dementia
and no longer recognized me, and my children had grown up. During my chemotherapy, I read a book by Bronnie Ware who talked about dying wishes and regrets
of the people in the deathbed. She found that facing death, nobody regretted that they didn’t
work hard enough in this life. They only regretted that they didn’t
spend enough time with their loved ones and that they didn’t spread their love. So I am fortunately today in remission. (Applause) So I can be back at TED again to share with you
that I have changed my ways. I now only work 965 — occasionally 996, but usually 965. I moved closer to my mother, my wife usually travels with me, and when my kids have vacation,
if they don’t come home, I go to them. So it’s a new form of life that helped me recognize how important it is that love is for me, and facing death
helped me change my life, but it also helped me see a new way of how AI should impact mankind and work and coexist with mankind, that really, AI is taking away
a lot of routine jobs, but routine jobs are not what we’re about. Why we exist is love. When we hold our newborn baby, love at first sight, or when we help someone in need, humans are uniquely able
to give and receive love, and that’s what differentiates us from AI. Despite what science fiction may portray, I can responsibly tell you
that AI has no love. When AlphaGo defeated
the world champion Ke Jie, while Ke Jie was crying
and loving the game of go, AlphaGo felt no happiness from winning and certainly no desire
to hug a loved one. So how do we differentiate ourselves as humans in the age of AI? We talked about the axis of creativity, and certainly that is one possibility, and now we introduce a new axis that we can call compassion,
love, or empathy. Those are things that AI cannot do. So as AI takes away the routine jobs, I like to think we can, we should
and we must create jobs of compassion. You might ask how many of those there are, but I would ask you: Do you not think that we are going
to need a lot of social workers to help us make this transition? Do you not think we need
a lot of compassionate caregivers to give more medical care to more people? Do you not think we’re going to need
10 times more teachers to help our children find their way to survive and thrive
in this brave new world? And with all the newfound wealth, should we not also make
labors of love into careers and let elderly accompaniment or homeschooling become careers also? (Applause) This graph is surely not perfect, but it points at four ways
that we can work with AI. AI will come and take away
the routine jobs and in due time, we will be thankful. AI will become great tools
for the creatives so that scientists, artists,
musicians and writers can be even more creative. AI will work with humans
as analytical tools that humans can wrap their warmth around for the high-compassion jobs. And we can always differentiate ourselves with the uniquely capable jobs that are both compassionate and creative, using and leveraging
our irreplaceable brains and hearts. So there you have it: a blueprint of coexistence
for humans and AI. AI is serendipity. It is here to liberate us
from routine jobs, and it is here to remind us
what it is that makes us human. So let us choose to embrace AI
and to love one another. Thank you. (Applause)

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